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Facts and fantasy: Animal picture books are favorites for young readers

Published: Saturday, March 29 2014 12:30 p.m. MDT

"A Baby Elephant in the Wild" is by Caitlin O'Connell and Timothy Rodwell.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

From fossils to fantasy, picture books about animals are favorites for reading and sharing aloud. Following is a selected list of titles that will interest young readers.

Nonfiction

"THE ANIMAL BOOK: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest — and Most Surprising Animals on Earth,” by Steve Jenkins, Houghton Mifflin, 208 pages, $21.99 (ages 6-10)

Author/illustrator Steve Jenkins brings together more than 300 images of animals, including not only the smallest and largest but also the “longest, loudest, oldest, hardiest and most dangerous.” Topics such as what is an animal, predators, animal senses and defenses will appeal to a wide range of young readers. Realistic images and clear side-bar text with a dozen pages of “more animal facts,” bibliography and glossary make this a resource for all ages.

Jenkins includes an additional section, “making books” (research, timeline, etc.), which could be a book by itself.

THE DOLPHINS OF SHARK BAY,” by Pamela S. Turner, photographs by Scott Tuason, Houghton Mifflin, $18.99 (ages 10-14)

Part of the Scientists in the Field series, this photo-essay follows dolphin research in Shark Bay, Australia. It is written with journal entries of the mammals by their given names, their identifying marks and idiosyncrasies. Remarkable photos document each family group. The longer text will be enjoyed by older readers.

"EIGHT DOLPHINS OF KATRINA: A True Tale of Survival,” by Janet Wyman Coleman, illustrations by Yan Nascimbene, Houghton Mifflin, $16.99 (ages 6-9)

On Aug. 28, 2005, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit, came predictions of a huge incoming storm. Six dolphins from the Oceanarium Center in Gulfport, Miss., were transferred to neighboring motel swimming pools for safety. The next day, the hurricane hit with full force, demolishing the dolphin house at the center. The eight remaining dolphins were swept into the ocean. Because the dolphins had been raised in captivity, there was the fear that they could not survive on their own. “Eight Dolphins of Katrina” is the story of the miraculous rescue of the eight that were cast in the sea. The story is accompanied by color-wash illustrations and full-color photographs.

STRIPES OF ALL TYPES: Rayas de todas las tallas,” by Susan Stockdale, Peachtree, $8.95 (ages 4-10)

“Stripes of All Types” features 19 exotic and familiar animals that have stripes that are used for camouflage, recognition and defense. This updated edition includes the Spanish translation beneath the English text. In-depth information on each animal is provided with a visual matching game.

A BABY ELEPHANT IN THE WILD,” by Caitlin O’Connell, photographs by Caitlin O’Connell and Timothy Rodwell, Houghton Mifflin, $16.99 (ages 4-8)

The authors, a husband and wife team, witnessed an extraordinary event in the African Savannah — the birth of an elephant. The baby’s first walk (“Liza learns in only a few hours”) and the family group interactions provided a rare experience. “In the 20 years I’ve been studying elephants in Africa, this is the first I’ve been able to study one specific baby elephant’s life.” Straightforward, simple text and stunning photos make this a journal children will enjoy.

"THE SECRET LIFE OF THE WOOLLY BEAR CATERPILLAR,” by Laurence Pringle, illustrated by Joan Paley, Boyds Mills Press, $16.95 (6 and up)

Joan Paley’s colorful, cut-paper illustrations accompany informational notes about this creature’s habitat and the pearly eggs from which caterpillars start their own secret lives. Additional facts about woolly bear caterpillars and an extensive glossary make this an interesting book for enjoyment and research.

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